Gluten Q&A with Founder of the Celiac Space, Erin Heidenreich
Erin Heidenreich is a Registered Dietician who is passionate about educating the general population about gluten disorders, celiac disease, and gluten-free diets. She is the founder of the Celiac Space where she shares tips on all things gluten. Erin answered some questions for us that are frequently asked when it comes to being gluten-free and gluten disorders.
What Is Gluten?
"Gluten is a protein. There are proteins, carbs and fats in every food that we eat. It is the protein that is found in three grains: wheat, rye, and barley. Most people think of gluten as being in breads, pasta, and those types of things because wheat, barley and rye make bread and pasta. There are other gluten-free grains such as rice and quinoa that are naturally gluten-free and don’t have the gluten protein in them".
Why Are So Many People Gluten-Free?
"One of the big reasons is celiac disease, which is a condition that I have. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks itself when gluten is present. So any amount of gluten causes an autoimmune reaction which makes the individual really sick. That is one of the biggest reasons and a more clinical reason that people follow a gluten-free diet.
There are other health conditions that may cause an individual to want to follow a gluten free diet. These can include, but are not limited to: GI issues, other autoimmune disorders, or thyroid conditions. Somebody might also chose to follow a gluten free diet because overall it just makes them feel better.
Another one of the other big reasons that people follow gluten-free diets could be that they are gluten sensitive or gluten intolerant which are both very similar. This means that if a person eats gluten they experience negative symptoms, most likely GI symptoms such as constipation or diarrhea".
If You Are Not Gluten Intolerant Can You Benefit From a Gluten-Free Diet?
"So the short answer is yes, if you have another condition such as an autoimmune disorder or something along the lines mentioned above. If you feel better on the gluten-free diet, or you are supporting family members or friends on the gluten-free diet it might be helpful. However with that said, not everyone needs to be on a gluten free diet. There is a lot of value in wheat, rye, or barley and products with gluten in them. There is a lot of great fiber and nutrients, so unless you need to go gluten-free… don’t do it!
There is no need to be over restrictive with gluten, there is no benefit when it comes to weight loss or longevity unless you have one of the conditions that I have mentioned. If you have any questions about that definitely talk to your primary doctor or a registered dietician".
Is it Hard to Find Snacks that Are Gluten-Free?
"I have been gluten-free for almost 10 years now! Back then it was almost impossible to find anything to snack on that was gluten-free. Nowadays it is a lot easier because there are a ton of products on the market. It is hard to decide what products taste good, what products meet nutrition criteria that I would want as a registered dietician.
There an abundance of gluten free snacks but the good ones, and the ones that are nutritionally good are hard to find. It’s hard to know like what is good both from a taste perspective and a nutrition perspective and for me, if they are celiac safe. As someone with celiac disease and following a gluten-free diet snacks are HUGE. If you have followed along with me or seen me on other platforms I preach snacks all day long. I encourage people to pack snacks when they go places, and to have snacks available all throughout the day so the importance of snacks is big".
What Are Your Favorite Gluten-Free Snacks?
"Some of my favorite snacks I would say would be nuts that I can grab and go, rice cakes because I like a good crunch salty kind of thing. I know that there are a lot different beef jerky’s and popcorn snacks, and I love a good granola. Protein bars are also one of my favorites that I love to take with me. Those are definitely some of my favorites".
What’s Inside the Gluten-Free SmartBox?
"If you guys get a SmartBox, and specifically the gluten-free option, you will get all the snacks. Everything that comes in this box is gluten-free which is incredible. If you are on a gluten-free diet I know you want to try all of the snacks and things, and this is a good way to get a sample of the different snacks. They are individually packaged which is awesome because snacks on the go are huge, I always have snacks with me everywhere I go because I never know what is going to be available to me. There is a great mixture of sweet things, and savory snacks like chips, and bars. I see a lot of different flavors in here of different kinds of bars so that is nice so you can ty a variety of each company. I am pumped to try all of these snacks, there are a lot that come in the box and I can’t recommend it enough".